“The presentation of an idea, apparently improvised, is only valid if there has been adequate study and preparation…”
Miyamoto Musashi translated by Stephen F. Kaufman

The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings

At Home

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For almost three years this post was presented at the beginning of my blog. It was set there as a wish and a reminder for a change in my life. A few days ago I decided it was finally time to let it go. I am at home now. This post is here to tell you that a lot of my energy is now … at home. Though I still write here, I write much more at Bhudeva – an online reflection of our physical home. You can find me here as well as there :)

“One of the most joyous things we can do is to find our place, the land where we belong. Having found our place, we snuggle into it, learn about it, adapt to it, and accept it fully. We love and honor it. We rejoice in it. We cherish it. We become native to the land of our living.”

Carol Deppe

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Love and Pain

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My grandmother finally parted with her body on Tuesday the 20th of January 2014. She suffered a lot, not just in her last years, but over the course of her life … is it alright to say too much? She was a fighter, a strong woman … and in the end that strength worked against her. It colluded with her fear of dying and kept her fiercely attached to a withering body.

I don’t have access to childhood memories (I am not a very good rememberer at all). I was her first grandchild and she was with me a lot during my early years … when my parents were still getting started in their own adult lives and had me too. I don’t remember that. I do remember that in my teen years, she brought it up … a lot … too much. At one point I got the impression that she (and my grandfather) were doing some kind of accounting … that their investment in my early life was supposed to pay off in my mature life. That accounting turned me off. It also came during a time of intense and painful awakening … and so I distanced myself. I did not want to be in an accounting relationship.

I was never a “good grandson” … I was never a “good anything”. I was raw. Later, with time and distance I also became present and honest. Later, direct. She loved me, she loved my eyes. She didn’t know how to say it … she always said, with a cynical twist on love that “she hated me so much”.

I saw her only a few times in recent years, she living in Israel, me in Romania. My parents often spoke of her deteriorating clarity, though that was not my impression when I communicated with her. She became more distant, conversations were shorter, there was less outwards moving interest … but I did not feel less clarity. I felt her present, I felt her joking … I felt her fear … I felt her pain.

A few months ago, during a Skype conversation, I asked her how she felt. The only answers she had to give were about her physical condition. Feeling, as in what is in your heart, was not part of her story and expression. The last time I saw her was ~10 months ago. As her situation continued to deteriorate my parents asked /suggested that I come and see her. Whenever I held that question inside the answer was no. I am not keen on travelling, I am not keen on travelling to Israel … but mostly I felt connected to my grandmother. I was with her, she was with me. Whenever I passed air through the Shakuhachi it was with her, for her … a vibration I sent out to the cosmos as a bookmark … so that we may find each other again. I felt that going to Israel would have narrowed that experience down to a limited physical interaction.

She was a powerful spirit. Though she could not speak her heart, in the 24 hours that came before she left her body her spirit traveled the planet and touched her kin. She visited my older sister in the night. She asked Andreea to light a candle. She removed from my younger sister’s neck a necklace she gave her that my sister never takes off. She summoned her son, my father’s brother (my father is a more mind-centered person like his father was, his brother is a more heart-centered person like his mother was) to a short “unplanned” visit to her bedside which is when she exhaled for the last time, with him at her side.

The evening before (or possible the evening before that) I felt compelled to listen to music in hebrew … specifically to this song:

Empires Fall Slowly

A child sits in the living room doing his homework
He doesn’t hear the doorbell ringing
At the same time that Athens invades Troy
Father arrives holding a box of cookies and a newspaper

Mother whispers secrets in father’s ear
A child picks up fragments of the conversation
Alexander the great has conquered half the continent
Father says that half of the salary has gone

And in the pages of time that has been lost
People end suddenly
Empires fall slowly

everything will be OK Father assures
Mother responds with a smile
An empire’s soldier has arrived at the edge of the continent
A child dreams of battles that have been and battles that have yet to come

And in the pages of time that has been lost
People end suddenly
Empires fall slowly

It’s a song that has always touched me yet this time tears started pouring … leaving my drained and settled. The next day Annelieke and I were outside cutting wood and my phone rang. My phone rarely rings. It was from Israel, it was my grandmother’s home phone. I knew it wasn’t her. My father was on the other end of the line already supported by the technicalities of dying,  police had just walked into the apartment so he was brief, he said to me “grandmother isn’t suffering anymore”.

In a time where I feel found inside and lost in the world, my grandmother’s passing is making feel a little bit lost inside and a little bit found in the world. All I could / can think of when connecting with my grandmother since is Andreea and Ma’ayan.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Israel, Romania, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to add your comment

What causes addiction?

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“The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them.”

source

 

Posted in AltEco, Intake, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Charlie Hebdo

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I was still living at home … late teens or early twenties. It was a Saturday morning. I was still in bed in my room. I could hear my father helping my younger sister with her math homework. He was explaining vigorously (both my sisters and I ended up crying more than once under the burden of my fathers helping explanations) and she wasn’t getting it. It was escalating. I heard him raise his voice, almost shouting to her something like “how can you not understand?” It concluded with my sister not understanding … and crying. I jumped out of bed, sped out of my room and went to yell at my father. I was angry at him for attacking her.

HE was the more mature, more knowledgeable, more experienced, more responsible, more evolved human being. HE wanted to help her. HE failed to do so … he couldn’t find an explanation she could understand. HE was confused and frustrated because she wasn’t understanding him. HE chose to escalate, using more force thinking that would lead to understanding. HE chose to blame her for not understanding. HE failed to take responsibility for not being able to explain himself. HE tried to blame a young girl for his failure.

Almost all the views I’ve met (from what little media I consume) about the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris seems to dance around Islam. I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo before so the first time I had a taste of some of its published works was in this article. I was disturbed by the images … not of the attack … but of the cartoons.

In my reflections on Israel I have stated that I believe that a cultural struggle is taking place. It isn’t just between Muslims and Jews. In Israel itself I see it between orthodox Judaism and secular people too. In my current village I see different flavors of Christianity as a limiting force (brings thought and debate to dead-ends). Islam seems to be gathering more attention on the global stage than other religions (though that may be a function of global attention rather then Islam), but the struggle that is taking place is beyond religion. It is also not about civilization (as this article frames it) … but about older civilizations and newer civilizations.

I believe the makers of Charlie Hebdo come from a newer and better civilization than the civilization that the three murderers came from. I do believe that a civilization that upholds free speech is better than a civilization that does not (and that a civilization that uses free speech responsibly is better than a civilization that uses it callously). I also believe that a more advanced civilization has a responsibility towards a less advanced civilization. I believe it is the more developed civilization that is responsible for caring for the less developed. It is up to the people who have learned the value of free speech to communicate it to those who have not.

The cartoons of Charlie Hebdo tell me that responsibility was neglected. Their cartoons are a violent form of communication. It doesn’t matter how true or noble or valuable their ideas are if they are violently communicated. It didn’t matter that my father knew mathematics, it did matter that he was unable to communicate his knowledge to my sister.

The struggle that is represented in this tragic event is very real. It is a battle between ideas and the outcome is inevitable … old, obsolete, irrelevant ideas are going to die. But does this struggle have to be violent, do we have to live within violent metaphors of war?

Can we choose to live in a story where we are all part of a continuous evolution of human society? Can we choose to treat each other (especially those less privileged to live in circumstances that induce evolution) with respect? Can we collectively remember that the more advanced forms of civilization we are striving for rest on the shoulders of the civilization we are leaving behind? Can we care for our older ideas (as we care of our elders) and put them to rest peacefully instead of murdering them violently?

When I posted this image I did not know it related to the Charlie Hebdo incident … I thought it was a good metaphor for much of what is breaking in the world.

yesterdaytodaytomorrow

It seems to be a popular meme  that a pencil is mightier than a gun. If that is the case then can it be that a cartoon that murders an idea is as if not more violent than a gun that murders a man?

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Pema Chödrön

Posted in inside, Intake, outside, Quality | You are welcome to add your comment

Information in Transition (IIT) Workshop

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This workshop was an idea that Annelieke and I wanted to bring to life during my visit to Portugal in the summer of 2014. It didn’t take place. However this document continues to tell a story that has been slowly circulating in email channels. It is published here to make it more accessible and relatable.

Click here to download a PDF version

A 3-day workshop exploring how to support information communication in our local and national Transition hubs. Bringing together “Transitionists” and “Technologists” in service of our community.

Context

Flow of information is at the heart of Transition. Local hubs generate information that travels both within a community and to other national and international hubs.
Currently information flows sporadically and inefficiently, much like rainfall washes over a desolate landscape:

  • Powered by gravity – information flows mostly when an outside force dictates necessity (application, fund-raising, etc.)
  • Following a path of least resistance – information is collected and stored on separate computers (usually on those in which it is created) in diverse document formats (word processors, spread-sheets, etc.)
  • Draining away rapidly – documents are quickly forgotten and archived , fading out of memory and consciousness.
  • Carrying away precious soil fertility – those who create the information are worn down by a recurring and inefficient effort of having to recollect and recreate lost information.

Strategic water design involves:

  • Capturing water – harvesting information when it is fresh and vital.
  • Slowing it down – providing information a controlled path towards safe storage.
  • Storing it – keeping information where it can be organized and easily accessed.
  • Directing it when and where it is needed – making information easy to find when it is needed.
  • Giving it time to absorb into the soil – presenting information in effective and diverse way to different people in different contexts.

As water is at the heart of landscaping, so information is at the heart of Transition. Correct harvesting, storage, absorption and delivery of information can lead to a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Objective

To bring together diverse skills from within our community (members of Transition, web developers and designers) into a focused workshop during which a co-creative information process will be born.

The workshop will explore how an existing and abundant information flow can be harvested and utilized in service of the purposes of local and national Transition hubs.

Landscape design is founded on a view in which a designated purpose for that landscape brings it into harmony with its inhabitants (people and wildlife). In a similar way an information landscape design requires a similar foundational view of purpose and people. We will explore this idea of “People & Purpose” to guide us in forming and executing an information strategy.

Purpose: Coming Together

When it comes to information and information technologies there seems to be a divide between those who create & consume it (namely “transitioners”) and those who are able to manipulate it (namely: “developers”).

“Transitioners” interact mostly with people and nature, dealing with malleable and unpredictable dynamics. “Developers” work mostly with computers and code, dealing with well structured, well behaved and predictable dynamics. “Transitioners” drown in information. “Developers” contain and organise information.

These worlds do not mix well on a functional level. Is isn’t for lack of motivation. It is more like oil and water (that have nothing against each other) that are of different qualities. Yet when making a delicious soup it is not uncommon to find oil and water “collaborating”.

What if instead of trying to get “developers” to understand “transitionerts” or vice versa we could find a way to come together around shared interests to which we can all relate (and make a great soup)? We do not have to be confined to a view in which “transitioners” organise community projects” and “developers build websites”.

We can choose to be members and co-creators of our community collaborating towards a shared purpose. We can evolve to be “transitioniers” who appreciate how well-structured information can support our efforts. We can evolve to be “developers” who appreciate how structured information has no value unless it serves a purpose.

That is the gift of purpose. If you are reading this document then you probably have an active interest in your community, specifically about making your community better, more pleasant and more resilient.

During this workshop we will explore how clear, shared and stated purpose can transform our differences into valuable complementary assets.

Format

Each day will be made up of sessions. Each session will include:

  • Introduction of (a) task(s) and a discussion about how to approach the task.
  • Separating into groups who will take on the task(s).
  • Regrouping, presenting, integrating and prioritising results.

Over the course of the workshop we will explore:

  • Personas: who are the people we wish to support using information technology.
  • Purposes: what roles do these people fill in our community and how do we perceive their purpose in the context of Transition.
  • Information Structures: viewing information as building blocks.
  • WordPress: introducing WordPress and how it views information.
  • Website or websites?
  • Information sources: how and where is information generated.
  • Information uses: how and where is information applied.

Outcomes

  • Working website(s) for local and national hubs.
  • Content strategy & knowledge how to use it.
  • Raising mutual awareness and appreciation among Transitioners and developers.
  • Establishing collaborative processes which can support a continued process of refinement and evolution.
  • Exploring technological innovation as a community building activity.

Participants

The workshop is an invitation for diverse skills from within the Transition movement to come and work together:

  • Transition members
  • WordPress developers
  • Web designers

It is open to people who are committed, driven by purpose, have good collaborative and communication skills. Participants are asked to make themselves fully available for the entire 3 day workshop and to bring with them clarity and enthusiasm.

A few places are available for observers from other social activist circles who wish to witness and learn from the process.

Posted in AltEco, Design, outside, Tech Stuff, Wordpress | You are welcome to add your comment

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

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yesterdaytodaytomorrowby Lucille Clerc

Posted in Enjoy, Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment